back to article Virgin Media sales are a bit flat under the Cable Cowboy's reign

Virgin Media has been part of Cable Cowboy John Malone's Liberty Global family for almost a year now. Yet the takeover hasn't boosted the UK telco's flat first quarter sales, which the City was told about this morning. Although growth in consumer and mobile revenue had rose, overall sales climbed a slender one per cent, to £1. …

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Nothing to do with the quality of their customer service?

Or the rest of Virgin groups misselling of financial packages?

Did I mention the total lack of any service (customer or telephone)

Virgin now equates to Cowboy

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Rol
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Re: Nothing to do with the quality of their customer service?

Agree. I would need to die and be reincarnated several times before I forget the appalling dishonesty and downright offensiveness I have been shown by some of Virgin's staff.

However, the same brush of bile covers BT and Sky, who along with Virgin have created a cabal of high priced players, who rely on deceit and doublespeak to entice normally wary citizens into their clutches.

I would dearly like to see the whole telecommunication network nationalised, because it is too important to be left in the hands of companies who time and again have proved themselves to be shameless liars, unrepentant cheats and devious free market subversives.

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Re: Nothing to do with the quality of their customer service?

"Or the rest of Virgin groups misselling of financial packages?"

I bet you blame Richard Branson for owning it as well

they are all separate companies, Virgin Media is as far from Virgin Money as Sainsbury's is from Harrods

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Joke

Re: Nothing to do with the quality of their customer service?

they are all separate companies, Virgin Media is as far from Virgin Money as Sainsbury's is from Harrods

About 50 metres?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nothing to do with the quality of their customer service?

"However, the same brush of bile covers BT and Sky, who along with Virgin have created a cabal of high priced players, who rely on deceit and doublespeak to entice normally wary citizens into their clutches."

Actually, the UK is pretty cheap - compared to Europe and definitely to the USA.

If prices were too high it would be easy for mobile operators to undercut them and offer 4G broadband as an affordable home Internet solution.

The problem with the market is that prices are *so* low that they don't support much in the way of investment to roll high speed networks out further.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nothing to do with the quality of their customer service?

Yes, many of us know that half the "Virgin" companies are unrelated and not even owned by Branson (*), but are simply businesses that rented the rights to the name.

However, given the whole point of them paying for that was to enjoy the implied association with "Virgin" and Branson, you can't blame people for thinking this is the case- that was the impression they were trying to give anyway.

Personally, I never saw the value or cachet in the Virgin brand anyway; to me, even without the dilution-via-renting-out, the name is just something that has no association or meaning beyond whatever business Branson wanted to get into this week. It's not cool- which I think has always been the impression we're supposed to get from Virgin- and it doesn't have any heritage in most of what it's applied to; it's bordering on an own brand.

(*) I think Branson does own 10% of Virgin media through their acquisition of Virgin Mobile, but it's still basically just the descendant of NTL

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Re: Nothing to do with @Rol

"I would dearly like to see the whole telecommunication network nationalised, because it is too important to be left in the hands of companies who time and again have proved themselves to be shameless liars, unrepentant cheats and devious free market subversives."

I'd agree that there's not a very effective market, but obviously you're too young to remember the inefficiency, waste, incompetence, high cost, and total lack of innovation that the state telecommunications monopoly had in the UK. I can, and I'm in no hurry to go back there.

Moreover, given that a nationalised industry is under the control of politicians and bureaucrats, don't you think that the Westminster House of Shame contains more than its fair share of shameless liars, unrepentant cheats and devious free market subversives?

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Re: Nothing to do with the quality of their customer service?

"downright offensiveness I have been shown by some of Virgin's staff."

Oh yes! When I had to drop my contract and head to Sky, the very helpful member of staff said to my wife, "If you really want to leave then fine but you know that Sky's boxes break after 9 months and they won't care about getting them fixed for you, as for the ADSL lines they always break down and only work half the time. Is that what you really want for your family, broken service and useless equipment?"

She replied, "Well as you have spoken to me so rudely I am even more convinced your company cares very little for giving a service and more about getting money. Once you've completed closing the account, please pass me to your manager so I can make a formal complaint about the way you've spoken to me."

As it turned out Sky's staff, although pretty dopey, were at least polite and courteous.

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They need to expand their fibre network for one thing if they want to see a big jump in subscribers.

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@ James 51

If we had VM available I would take it in an instant.

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"They need to expand their fibre network for one thing if they want to see a big jump in subscribers."

The Cable Cowboy hasn't bought this to absorb cash (ie invest in it), he's bought it to ream it out for cash. His definition of "investment" is simply speculative M&A, so you'll see an ongoing $14bn bid for a Dutch cable network, a $1bn share buyback, takeover of the 20% un-owned stake in the Chilean cable business. However, the chances of Virgin Media expanding their fibre network can be summed up in three letters: nil.

The longer term game plan is just to buy and bolt together cable companies, strip the costs out, push the prices up, and then sell out at some future date to another investor - for example a cash rich pension fund looking for long life infrastructure assets. Legislative and commercial barriers to market entry in local infrastructure are high, so there's little competition, and the inability or unwillingness of the mobile telcos to supplant fixed line data connections means that the fixed line market is unlikely to be threatened by 4G (or even 5G).

As usual it's all OFCOM's fault. Only two sizeable local loop infrastructure players, one of whom has to offer common carriage over its assets, the other doesn't, and then a mobile telco market where there's no leadership to make wireless a credible choice (in future rather than now) for home broadband.

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Unhappy

@Ledswinger, I hate to agree with you...

But I do.

The reason I hate to agree isn't because it's you but rather because I'm a long term VM customer, actually since it was NTL, and despite the issues with customer service that many cite (and a few minor issues I've faced too over the years) they provide a great service for TV and broadband. Indeed, I now have 100mb (that "free" doubling offer - probably more a price alignment in reality) and certainly notice the difference when connecting to the company VPN.

Having access to this sort of broadband service is a total must for me, and the geographically limited availability would certainly drive any choice of location if I moved.

It is a real shame that the investment in network expansion appears to have evaporated.

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Re: @ James 51

The last two houses I've lived in have been less than 20 metres from their existing network (they cabled part of the housing development I lived in during the 90s, then more houses were built) yet they just refuse to invest in expanding the network to the newer houses.

The estate has been under constant construction from the late 80s and will be into the foreseeable future. At around 8000 households that's a lot of access to customers within a small geographic area. The estate is also just 2 miles from their Tesside headend, it's just completely ridiculous that they won't provide services.

In late 2012 BT eventually came along with FTTC then I moved and my new place is in exactly the same position as before, surrounded by VM cabinets but no service. Yes the council have adopted the roads but VM are just not interested in expanding.

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Re: @ James 51

Same here, I've tried all the neighbouring buildings on my street and they are all eligible. However, my place was built in 2008 and they refuse to cover it. If they won't expand their network how do they hope to expand? I've had to grudgingly go with BT and Infinity isn't too bad actually, but it would have been nice to get cable tv too.

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Stop

They need to expand their fibre network for one thing if they want to see a big jump in subscribers.

Ah but that might result in Ofcom requiring them to provide a wholesale service and open up their network the way BT is forced to. Right now VM doesn't even have market dominance in the areas where it has a network (which is sad from their POV) but get much bigger and Ofcom might start taking a closer interest.

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Re: @ James 51

Surely OFCOM should mandate that every newbuild housing estate should have a minimum of two comms suppliers? If VM won't take the opportunity to expand their network, then other suppliers should be allowed into their franchise areas.

As a satisfied VM customer of many years, continued access to their service is a major factor when moving house.

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Go

Re: @ James 51

Surely OFCOM should mandate that every newbuild housing estate should have a minimum of two comms suppliers?

If the housing estate is only supplied with a BT local loop it will have multiple comms suppliers. If the estate is only supplied by VM cable it will only have one supplier. That situation would change if Ofcom removed VM's 'protected status' but I don't see that happening any time soon. As I suggested in another post VM aren't big enough to warrant that and I sometimes wonder if they are deliberately staying small so they don't have to go through the pain BT does allowing other CPs to use their network.

Now if you mean new builds should be forced to have multiple local loops then I'd have to disagree. That's just wasteful. What is needed is a local loop that multiple CPs can use. I do think new builds should be forced to use fibre and whoever supplies that should be forced to provide wholesale services and other levels of access. I'm sure BT could oblige here - I wonder if VM would step up to that particular plate?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @ James 51

"Surely OFCOM should mandate that every newbuild housing estate should have a minimum of two comms suppliers? If VM won't take the opportunity to expand their network, then other suppliers should be allowed into their franchise areas."

It doesn't really work that way - Ofcom can't mandate anyone to provide anything, apart from BT's Universal Service Obligation.

Two comms suppliers would be inefficient and expensive if the market doesn't support it. If company X installs an FTTx network today, they might pass 30 homes for £10K. They might expect to actually sell service to 5 of those homes, and so they'd need to make £2k per household to get their investment back. If two companies are providing service, company X sells to fewer households and needs to charge more to recoup the investment. Local network might have a long asset life, but the banks lending money to do this stuff want their money back over a shorter period.

As to your other point - there's no such thing as franchises any more. Any business can decide to go and install a local loop and provide service if they want. Ofcom don't need to issue licenses or award franchises - if you can convince someone to lend you the money, you can be Red Bren Telecom. Not many companies actually do (fewer for very long) and the reason is that the UK has very cheap telecoms services - there's no money to be made in rolling out network at the prices the market is willing to pay.

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What is this new devilry?

"Liberty Global, which is now a UK PLC, ...."

but still listed on NASDAQ. Presumably some contrivance to dodge taxes on both sides of the Atlantic, whilst reaming out customers with inflation busting prices increases and rough service.

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Still better than the US

Sadly, VM in the UK is still a far better deal than Comcast in the US (or at least California). They do at least (for the moment) have some concept of providing a fast and reliable broadband service. Phone plus 15Mbit broadband in the US costs as much as phone plus 50Mbit plus XL TV in the UK.

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Zot
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I've been with VM since they started. They supply me with a 50Mb Internet service, which is apparently going to double for free at some point, but I'm not bothered about that.

I've always called them cowboys, from the way that act so amateur, right back to the days when they started out in a shed in Gloucestershire. The TV box I use to have was hideously slow and often broken - which they always denied over the phone with all sorts of claims about it being better than Sky. The fools.

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Holmes

A company no one has heard of...

has no effect on sales - well that is a no shit sherlock moment. The only effect on sales is their crap customer everything.

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Surprised they're still in business!

I'm shocked they're still trading after the way they treat customers.

When trying to fit a line into my place, they dug through a main power cable and knocked out the local Tesco.. and then tried to bill me for the damages to their equipment! I very quickly cancelled my order and told them to take me to court for any money they wanted... never heard from them again.

Similarly, my parents were trying to get hooked up at the same time. 4 months in, still not installed a line, but have still tried to bill them for service every month... shocking... or my family are just very unlucky.

Still, am with Virgin for my mortgage and can't complain..

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Just me then...

Just me then that seems to be the only happy VM customer here?

When you consider that all of these companies are all pretty much the same, I had no problems with ordering, lead time, installation or ongoing service - in fact the two installers were two of the happiest and pleasant chaps I've met in a long time, and the 50Mb BB is reliable and quick.

The only downside to the whole shebang that I still have to pay a £13 monthly standing charge for a phone line that I never use.

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Re: Just me then...

"The only downside to the whole shebang that I still have to pay a £13 monthly standing charge for a phone line that I never use."

Why? You don't need a phone line for either VM Broadband or TV. We used to have VM BB without renting a phone line.

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Anonymous Coward

How to save money

Perhaps if they stopped mailing everyone an invite to join VM or buy a mobile almost every day they would save some money (and trees).

And if they stopped phoning up and trying to sell mobile packages to their customers on the false pretext of "checking you are getting all the discounts you are entitled to" every month they might enjoy more goodwill.

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lack of value

I'm a subscriber who has watched VM steadily ramp up prices using little incremental things we are are not supposed to notice. In the end it was the constant repeating of programmes on TV that made me take another look at the rediculous amount of money I was expected to pay for a service no better than freeview with TV cancelled after subscribing to Netflix I'm over £40 a month better off and that first month covered the cost of my new freesat PVR rather less than the cost of "installing" ie plugging in a Virgin+ box .

They played a similar game with my mobile account with an enticing PAYG deal for twelve months that became a joke quickly from 20p for a days internet it jumped to 40 then 50p rehashed the call charges and it was time to cancel that as well. Time they learned that having loyal customers is not a reason to fleece them.

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Slx
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I wonder would they be better off just relaunching as UPC UK?

Over here in Ireland Liberty bought the remnants of NTL Ireland and Chorus neither of which had wonderful brand images. Chorus in particular, the cable provider in Cork, Limerick etc had a history of very poor customer service and technical issues.

When they took over the networks they retained a merged ChorusNTL Brand for about 1 1/2 years until they'd rebuilt the networks. The range of channels was vastly improved and harmonised across the whole network. On demand was improved and the physical coaxial and fibre infrastructure basically rebuilt in many areas. They're delivering rock solid 200mbit/s and 500mbit/s to business customers at this stage and their customer service was given a total revamp.

Only when the network and customer service issues were sorted did they actually roll out their UPC branding as clearly they wanted to break any association with the ancien regime.

Horizon is also launched as a kind of separate, but linked brand as "Horizon from UPC". It's quite an innovative product, but it has a few glitches to be ironed out in the software yet. However, it's pretty decent and quite comparable to TiVo.

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Have to say I've been pretty happy with the VM broadband for the last few years. Started out on 20mbit and now on 120mbit for "no extra charge" (yeah, right). Still it's a lot better performance than what BT can provide - They phone me occasionally to tell me about the wonderful Infinity box until I tell them I'm on 120mbit fibre.

I'll be moving house this year, and at that point, if I can get VM I'll definitely go for the broadband, but not the TV, it's pretty shite. The phone is probably no more expensive than anyone else's,but has the added disadvantage of going out with the power. Might just stick with mobile for that.

we had an outage yesterday - first one for a long while - and the CS people were fine. Took the time to check my circuit, though I'd already done that on the mobile, and confirmed the fault. Was fixed within an hour.

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I've always been impressed when I've had to deal with VM, the engineers through the years that come to upgrade the kit have always been very knowledgeable and the broadband speed and reliability is significantly better than any ADSL I had to suffer.

Yes their Achilles heel is that they simply don't expand the network and they've saturated the available market.

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Smallworld

i'm currently with small world media and recently received a letter that VM have bought them over and will be re branding over the next months, with all this chatter i'm unsure if i should take tivo when it does arrive as the current SW box is just on demand freewiew

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